The Duterte administration has managed to exceed expectations about its performance at governance and fiscal and economic policy but PRRD's work is not done yet as he mentioned during the election campaign. There is still the need to amend the Constitution in terms of the political structure and its economic provisions which continue to hinder the country's progress
The 18th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines will open on July 22, 2019 with the President delivering his fourth State of the Nation Address. The President normally gives a summary of the achievements of the Executive and the Legislative during this time but it is also an opportunity to announce additional items on his legislative agenda or a new policy direction of national importance.
The President's Fourth SONA is important because it sets the direction for the last half of his term.
The Duterte administration has managed to exceed expectations about its performance at governance and fiscal and economic policy. The economic managers have done a good job of managing the economy thus far but there is still room for improvement, particularly in the underperforming agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The infrastructure gap is being plugged at a continuing pace as both major and local infrastructure development projects are going full-blast. The economic dividends from these projects will be reaped towards the end of the administration's term and beyond.
The defeat of the opposition in the midterm election has validated Duterte's winning over the majority of Filipinos to his brand of leadership. The inevitable question now is who and what comes next after his term ends?
The President now has the chance to define the legacy of his administration. He was elected to the Presidency at a crucial juncture in the country's history. He has dealt with the issues of the past which continued to haunt the nation such as the Marcos burial, peace and autonomy with one rebel faction in Mindanao and the peace and order situation nationwide. He has also been able to get Congress to pass quality legislation under the short tenure of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
But his work is not done yet as he mentioned during the election campaign.
There is still the need to amend the Constitution in terms of the political structure and its economic provisions which continue to hinder the country's progress. The Philippines is not attracting foreign direct investment at a comparable level as its regional neighbors because of high power and labor costs, labor militancy and the uneven playing field which tends to protect rent-seeking local conglomerates controlled by the oligarchs.
It is also high-time that the political instability brought about by excessive politicking is addressed. Six years is too short a term for a good President and too long for a bad one. The defect can be remedied by a shift to a federal parliamentary system with the Prime Minister as Head of Government and the President as Head of State. It is only through this change that the government can devise and implement long-term economic development and other strategies, cut through the centralized bureaucracy of the present form of government and assure foreign investors of continuity and political stability. The streamlining of the bureaucracy can also be effected through the change in political structure. The template is already in place through the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
Duterte's victory in 2016 was fortuitous because it came at a time when a political shift also occured in the US with the election of Donald Trump. The President of the United States had no qualms about Duterte's recalibration because it was in line with his.
This translated into the Philippines identifying as Asian for the first time in its post-war history. The move was welcomed by ASEAN member countries because the Philippines was not looked upon as America's agent in the region anymore. It also put Japan on notice. The rise of China as the new regional power pushed Japan into action because it relies on imports for its economy. The Japanese upped the ante in the race for development aid funds which the Philippines has greatly benefited from.
The President has the opportunity to finally put the Philippines on the right track for long-term development. His fresh electoral mandate and the political capital Filipinos have given him allows him to chart the path for the country's full economic takeoff. If he is successful, Duterte will step down as the best President the country has ever had in its post-Marcos history.